Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Gift Back to Nature

During this season of giving I can’t help but think of those that need the best gift we can give them – our support.  I’m talking about the things that we co-habit the Earth with: the plants, the insects, the birds, the mammals.  We can do things - even small things - to give them a bit of support:

Food – remember the food chain and start with the building blocks: PLANTS.  Native plants feed native insects which then feed other native insects and birds.  Plants also feed mammals – deer browse on foliage while seeds and nuts feed chipmunks, squirrels and birds.  Smaller mammals and birds become food for larger predators.  Non-native plants feed very few native insects and therefore do very little to support the populations of all that rely on them.  Leaf litter feeds the insects that birds like the brown thrasher hunt.

Water – create a fresh water source in your yard.  It can be as small as a single birdbath or a shallow container on the ground.  Change it out every few days to keep it fresh and healthy.

Brown thrasher enjoying a bath

Shelter – providing shelter is so much more than having birdhouses.  Birds need year-round protection and evergreen shrubs and trees can provide that.  Loose brush piles provide shelter for small mammals as well as daytime cover for birds as they hunt for food.  Tall trees provide places for squirrels to nest and dead trees (known as “snags”) provide both food and shelter for certain birds like woodpeckers.

Woodpecker on dead tree

A place to raise their young – birds like robins, mockingbirds and cardinals and many others nest in shrubs that have dense growth in the summer time.  Again with the brush piles ....  Flat rocks provide the habitat that creatures like salamanders need.  Dense leaf litter is the home to many insects and their young.

Habitat – now think BIGGER than your backyard.  Every small piece of space that we can preserve for them in a natural state is a gift that keeps on giving.  Here are ideas that get bigger and bigger:
-          Convince your friends and neighbors to leave natural places; if each one of us left part of our backyard as natural (still removing any invasives!), imagine the corridor that we could link between us.  Birds and mammals need contiguous spaces not isolated pockets.  Spread the word.
-          Support efforts in your local communities to create city parks and county parks.  Volunteer at these parks to teach other people about using native plants and about the importance of removing invasive plants.  Your gifts of time and effort are worth more than you know.
-          Support your state parks by visiting them, volunteering through their “Friends of” organization, and supporting legislative efforts to fund them and create new ones.  Helping to remove invasives is so helpful - cutbacks in funding have left this job mostly undone, allowing invasive plants to disturb even more natural habitat.
-          Support groups like The Nature Conservancy, The Georgia Conservancy, and others that come together to purchase sensitive areas for conservation.

Thank you for all you do on behalf of our natural environments! Best wishes to you and yours for safe and peaceful holidays and a Happy New Year.


  1. Shouldn't you be unwrapping presents now? Always fighting the good fight, even on holidays!

  2. Super summary, also great New Year's resolutions :)
    Have a great holiday Ellen.